June 13, 2023

By Maryam Missal


On Monday, journalist Shaheen Sehbai and vloggers Syed Haider Raza Mehdi, Wajahat Saeed Khan, and Major (Retd.) Adil Farooq Raja were booked for sedition on the complaint of a citizen.

The FIR (406/23) was registered at the Ramna Police Station in Islamabad on the complaint of one Mohammad Aslam, who alleged that the named individuals encouraged people to attack sensitive military installations on May 9 through their writings and video messages with the intention to cause disorder across the nation.

Following the May 9 riots, several journalists have either been arrested or abducted by law enforcement agencies in addition to other forms of harassment.

YouTuber Imran Riaz Khan remains missing since May 11, after being released from Sialkot Jail where he had been temporarily detained. Riaz Khan’s parents claim that he was taken away in black SUVs shortly after his release, but the police and intelligence agencies informed the Lahore High Court (LHC) that he is not in their custody.

Similarly, Sami Abraham was abducted by unidentified individuals on May 24 in Islamabad. He was recovered five days later on May 30, but has yet to publically speak about the circumstances surrounding his enforced disappearance and subsequent release.

Ali Arqum was arrested by the police in connection with the May 9 riots and charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). He is currently in the custody of the Punjab police, and is being held at Kot Lakhpat Jail.

Zubair Anjum was apprehended by individuals wearing police uniforms on May 5. He was released approximately 20 hours later on May 6.

Anum Sheikh, a freelance journalist and social media activist for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insad (PTI), was arrested on May 20 under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance and imprisoned in Adiala Jail. She was released three days later on May 23.

Apart from these incidents, several other journalists faced arrests or had their homes raided following the events of May 9. Jahangir Hayat, Shahid Aslam, Salman Ghafoor, Ali Tariq, Rafiq Sajjid, and Sameer Hadi have all reported intimidation by security forces.

International media rights bodies condemn violence against journalists

Steven Butler, a senior program consultant with Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said, “Speech should not be threatening” while talking to Voicepk.net on the matter.

Butler also emphasized that for Pakistan to maintain its status as a democratic nation, journalists should possess the freedom to critique both governmental and non-governmental institutions.

Daniel Bastard, Head of Asia-Pacific Desk, International Secretariat, Reporters Without Borders, while talking to Voicepk.net said, that a journalist has been missing for a month now, without any trace, and violence is being perpetrated against reporters by PTI hardliners, he added, and now several media persons are risking imprisonment on spurious charges of “mutiny” for just mentioning the role of the army in the conduct of affairs.

Bastard added,

“Journalists should not become collateral victims of the power games being played at the head of the state. We call on the civilian government and on the Chief of the Army Staff, to allow journalists to work in complete independence”.

Conflicting opinions within Pakistan

Ex-Secretary General of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and veteran journalist Nasir Zaidi held that sedition cases against journalists are not appreciable, adding that if journalists are violating any rules, they should be tried under normal charges.

“They should not be charged with sedition as it can harm the image of Pakistan in the international media,” he posited while speaking with Voicepk.net. “We do not support organised campaigns against institutions but we also do not commend the violation of the fundamental right of freedom of speech.”

However, current PFUJ Secretary General Arshad Ansari said that, “Journalists should engage in constructive criticism, not attack any institution. If they are inciting violence against any entity, they should be held accountable for their actions.”

Ansari further went on to say that “We have fought for years for the freedom of speech but we do not stand along with those who spew hate against the national institutions.”

The PFUJ representative called out journalists who are living abroad and allegedly inciting violence in the country due to their affiliations.

“We shall continue our fight for freedom of speech but we will not stand with those who incite hate,” he said.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here